Safety Act would ban forced outing policies in California

Safety Act California forced outing policies

Our Schools USA co-founder Kristi Hirst speaks at a press conference Tuesday in Sacramento about the Safety Act, which would ban forced outing policies in California schools. She is flanked by the bill’s author, Assemblymember Chris Ward, left, and state Superintendent of Public School Tony Thurmond, right. Photo: Office of Assemblymember Chris Ward

Forced outing policies, also known as “parental notification” policies, could be banned in California under first-of-its-kind legislation in the nation introduced in Sacramento.

Since 2023, more than a dozen school districts, including several in Southern California, have proposed and/or passed policies requiring teachers to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender or asks to be identified by a different name or pronouns than the one listed on their birth certificate. 

These forced outing policies put LGBTQ+ students at risk and harm their mental health. They also can lead to increased bullying, harassment, discrimination, among other issues.

“Teachers should not be the gender police and violate the trust and safety of the students in their classrooms,” Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) said during a Tuesday press conference, where he discussed the Safety Act, which he introduced this week in the Assembly.

“Parents should be talking to their children, and the decision for a student to come out to their family members should be on their own terms,” he said. “The Safety Act simply ensures that conversations about gender identity and sexuality happen at home without interference from others outside of the family unit.”

The Safety Act, AB 1955, would do three things:

  • Prohibit school districts from implementing forced outing policies
  • Provide resources for parents and students to navigate conversations around gender and identity on their own terms
  • Ensure teachers and school staff are not retaliated against for refusing to forcibly out a student 

The Safety Act is expected to be heard in the Senate Education Committee next week.

Murrieta Valley defies state order to rescind district’s outing policy

Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the Chino Valley Unified School District over its forced outing policy. In October, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Sachs temporarily blocked the policy from being implememented as it makes its way through the courts. 

However, some schools are determined to continue endangering trans youth.

Just this week, a defiant conservative majority on the board of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District defied an order from the state to rescind its forced outing policy. 

The extremist board members who supported the policy ignored a warning from the district’s law firm to board President Paul Diffley, who sponsored the outing rules.

The attorney warned that going ahead with the policy could cost the district $500,000 in legal expenses.

“Under California law, schools are required to support and affirm LGBTQ+ students, which includes addressing students by the name and pronouns that match their identity and respecting their decisions about coming out,” Becca Cramer-Mowder, legislative advocate at ACLU California Action, said at the press conference.

“By targeting transgender and nonbinary youth, forced outing policies violate state and federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws,” Cramer-Mowder said. “The Safety Act strengthens existing protections that ensure that all California students are safe and treated fairly at school.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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